Khwahishen aake lipat jaati hai saapon ki tarah,
Jab mehekta hai teri yaad ka sandal mujh mein…
(a couplet by Nusrat Mehdi)
Darkness had just begun to descend and the ground was rapidly filling up. Families took their time to inspect the seating arrangement and gestures of recognition across aisles accompanied by shouts of janaab and embraces were all around. In front, a pistachio coloured stage was laid out with luxurious settees, individual tables and microphones. Unmindful of the television camera crews, small groups of aficionados recited their favourite sher or nazm to one another. The scene was set for the 15th Mushaira Jashn-e-Bahaar, an Urdu poetry symposium that was held in Delhi recently.
Organised by the Jashn-e-Bahaar Trust, an NGO that works for the promotion of the Urdu language; this year the poets of the sub-continent were joined by Urdu enthusiasts from Japan and United States of America. Enthralling the audience with an address in Hindi, Professor Hiroshi Kataoka said that his eureka moment was when he could associate the essence of the poetry of English poet William Blake and Mirza Ghalib. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to spread Urdu among academia in Japan.
Justice Markandey Katju who was in attendance, spoke at length about the na insafi (bias) inflicted on the Urdu language post independence, because of its superficial association with Islam and thereby, Pakistan, and Hindi’s association with ‘Hinduness’. He recalled an incident where a release petition of Gopal Das, an Indian was being sought from Pakistan. He informed the seekers that he had no judicial powers in the matter. But he wrote a couplet of Faiz Ahmed Faiz as an appeal to the Pakistan authorities and miraculously, Gopal Das was released. Reiterating an appeal to the Indian government to confer the Bharat Ratna to Mirza Ghalib, he said, ‘This would not add any value to him, but would definitely add respectability to the Indian State.’
One theme that rang dominant throughout, was the universality of the essence of poetry and most found the Urdu language to be the most accommodating to this form of expression. This, they acknowledged was a common thread that bound all of them together. Farhat Shehzad, a businessman by profession and an Urdu poet by passion from New Jersey, USA shared his poetry at the event and said that he had an inexplicable connection with the language. “The connection has continued to my son, who does not know the language and yet, accompanies me to all Urdu poetry meets,” he said. Zakia Ghazal, a poet from Toronto, Canada spoke of the ease with which the verses came to her in Urdu than in any other language.
When concerns were raised about the state of the Urdu language, almost all poets passionately said that like all languages, Urdu too is evolving and hence will not die. Farhat Shehzad and chief guest for the evening minister Kapil Sibal said that the lack of spoken Urdu was because it was not linked to occupation. Hence, efforts have to be made to teach school students the language and also include it in official matters of transaction. “Urdu at the time of Ghalib is not the same as Urdu spoken today,” said Kamna Prasad, founder and convener of Jashn-e-Bahaar Trust. “Language is always in the making. It cannot be made or unmade in a day. Till the time there is passion and love, Urdu will remain.”